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Not a British production per sé, but set in England and Europe, so some slight exotic appeal to American audiences. Obviously, the natural pulling point is the history angle, and although a horse isn’t your classic relatable hero, the fact that it is involved on both sides of the conflict means it’s very much focused on the horrors of the war rather than fist pumping support for one side.
The Tree of Life
A mixture of mainly the IOU and self-importance. Director Terrence Malick’s output is so notoriously stingy, and his reputation is so high, that there’s the sense that everything he does must be a great film, even if it’s just because he takes so bloody long making each film. That, and it’s difficult to argue that a film which combines a sort of coming-of-age narrative with extended scenes of dinosaurs is anything other than self-important.
Midnight in Paris
One can argue for this being an IOU, since Woody Allen is pretty much the opposite of Malick, in that he directs near enough a film a year, and a good number of them go basically unnoticed, so when he has an unexpected hit, as he has had with Midnight in Paris, he deserves some praise. ‘Paris’ in the title makes it seem classy, as does French First Lady Carla Bruni’s casting. Throw in some historical cameos from F. Scott Fitzgerald et al., and the fact the film isn’t quite serious enough to feature shots of jellyfish not doing very much, and it’s ticking a lot of boxes.
Cynics everywhere are gleefully taking it in turns to bludgeon The Help for revising history so that it was thanks to white people that white people’s prejudice against African Americans was eradicated, if that makes sense. Whilst I didn’t see it as being quite so clear cut, (the major historical moment is not the March on Washington, but the murder of Medgar Evers, hardly a triumphant pat on the back) having American’s favourite new young actress Emma Stone as the lead certainly helped.
As much as I enjoyed Hugo (I know I’m in the minority by saying it was my favourite film of last year) and think Scorsese is the world’s greatest living filmmaker, I will concede that since The Departed, the Academy has gone into IOU overload with Marty. It’s almost as if after The Departed won, they decided they’d have a look at what else this Scorsese guy had done, watched Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull etc. and said “…so let me get this straight, none of these won Best Picture?! And he didn’t win Best Director until just now?! We’ve got some catching up to do”
Arguably this year’s odd-one-out (or curveball, if you’ll pardon the pun), Moneyball doesn’t really fit any of the aforementioned categories. Brad Pitt’s been knocking about for a while, so maybe a roundabout IOU, given this is very much his film. Plus, his Wikipedia entry summarises him as ‘one of the world’s most attractive men’, which can’t hurt.
Very much riding on a wave of expectation following its domination of the BAFTAs, this French silent film doesn’t so much tick the ‘quirky yet accessible foreign import’ box as it does utterly obliterate it. The Artist’s combination of critical acclaim, box office success, and bold production choices (most films do tend to rely on dialogue quite a bit these days, unless it’s a Michael Bay production, in which case CGI robots take precedence) seems as though it may be too good an opportunity to pass up for the Academy.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A controversial choice, given the polarising effect that it’s had on critics, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was undoubtedly given a nod for its attempt to tackle with the September the 11th attacks through the eyes of a child so ‘precocious’ it’s nauseating. Tom Hanks has also gone 18 years since winning back-to-back Best Actor awards in ’93 and ’94, and as he wasn’t even nominated this year, ELAIC’s nomination may be a bit of apology.
A bleak story set in a place synonymous with sun and smiles is always going to get the Academy’s interest, and with George Clooney turning off the charm offensive for a distant father trying to come to grips with his wife’s life-threatening illness, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will literally be salivating. Clooney’s had a big year, with many expecting his directorial effort The Ides of March to get either a Best Picture or Best Director nomination – it got neither, so perhaps that’ll give The Descendants a bit of a boost. However, having won Best Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes, its chance may have already gone – only three Best Drama winners have won Best Picture in the last ten years.